- What’s Good: Last chance to buy what’s, in my opinion, a better-looking Escape.
- What’s Bad: Feature content doesn’t stack up, and not many people are likely to fill any Escape with premium fuel.
Few words within the automotive industry carry as much weight as the word cycle.
It doesn’t matter how successful, or not, a given car is for its manufacturer. At some point it will inevitably hit the end of its cycle, and teams of designers and engineers will put everything they’ve got into making the next version of the product even better while trying to stay several steps ahead of their competitors.
Sometimes they get it right; sometimes, they don’t. And the more successful the car has been for a brand, the more pressure there is on everyone involved not to mess it all up.
Recently, the Ford Escape’s turn came up. This is a big one: outside of trucks, the Escape has been Ford’s best-selling vehicle for several years. Although not a whole lot is known about how the all-new 2020 version performs just yet, the looks, powertrains, and some updated technology and safety features have all been announced and are available at the link above for your perusal.
If you take a look at it all and you’re not so sure you like what you see – Wheels editor Kunal D’souza says that the new styling “isn’t going to offend anyone,” but since all I can see on that new front end is the stretched face of a model who visited a plastic surgeon one too many times, I’m not so sure I agree – the 2019 Ford Escape is still here for your consideration for a little while longer. Before you decide to snap one up before it’s gone, there are a few things you should know about this sales stalwart.
This 2.0-litre EcoBoost Engine Isn’t Changing Much
It’s funny to have to kick off on this point: the 2020 Escape will have three-cylinder, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid powertrains available, but the optional engine equipped in this 2019 Titanium test unit is one of the few things that’s carrying over almost unchanged, going forward with no more than a slight power bump.
Here in the 2019 version, this largest of the EcoBoost twin-scroll turbocharged engines produces 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm, matched with the same six-speed automatic transmission that’s present across the current line-up. However, and this is a key point, these figures are with premium fuel. At a Natural Resources Canada rating of 11.5 L/100 km city, 8.7 highway, and 10.2 combined – and EcoBoost engines are known to sometimes run richer, which shows after my week of mostly city driving, when it drank 14.7 L/100 km – that’s going to be a more expensive fuel bill than most mainstream compact SUV buyers are prepared to sign up for. That means most owners are likely to fill it with regular gasoline, which won’t deliver these power figures. Still, if you can take the fuel bills, this is one of the more powerful engines you’ll find in a small SUV south of the luxury segment.
I find that the throttle has a slightly resistant feeling to it from a stop – remember when you’d leave a mechanical parking brake slightly engaged and immediately know you’d done so upon pulling away? It’s similar to that – but once the turbo kicks in, everything comes together nicely.
The marketing materials say that the 2019 Escape comes with an Intelligent 4WD system, which is available with the one-level-down 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine and standard with the 2.0-litre. The differences between a four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive can be very nitpicky, but when most people think of four-wheel-drive they think of transfer cases, traction control selectors, that sort of thing. None of that is present here. This is a hands-off system that runs in two-wheel-drive most of the time and powers the rear axle without intervention when extra traction is needed. For the way that most people in this segment drive, this will work fine. If you’re looking for more control than that, you’ll want to shop elsewhere – maybe toward the new Toyota RAV4 Trail.
Smaller and More Conventional – For Now
If the proportions of the current Escape appeal to you – at the moment it’s one of the smaller compact crossovers on the market before you get down to the really tiny subcompacts – then you should know that the next one will be larger by 61 mm in length, 43 mm in width, and 20 mm in wheelbase. That will push it away from, say, the Hyundai Tucson and closer to a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, which is the right direction in terms of direct competitiveness with those models. But there’s also something to be said for those slightly smaller dimensions in city driving, so if that’s a trait that’s appealing to you, you’ll want to look at the 2019 model.
One thing that the current Escape does better on than the Tucson, apart from power, is outright cargo space. In the Tucson, you’d have 877 litres of room with the second-row seats down and 1,754 litres with those seats up, while the Escape provides 964 and 1,925 litres respectively.
Lacking in Top-end Features
What you’d be giving up by choosing the 2019 Escape – over the upcoming Escape, over a new Tucson, or over most of its similar competitors at this price point – is feature content for the price.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, but the rest of the interior has a black-plastic quality and a mess of centre stack buttons that a lot of other SUVs in this price range have managed to overcome. There’s a heated steering wheel and heated exterior mirrors, while the front seats are heated but not ventilated, and the second-row seats don’t have an available heating function. (A Hyundai Tucson Ultimate includes ventilated front seats and heated rear seats for less money.)
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both standard, which used to be more of an exceptional offering than it is today, but they’re driven by the well-executed Ford Sync 3 system. This system has held up well and still has some standout features, such as plenty of presets and easy-to-set favourite song and artist alerts for SiriusXM. However, when this system was wedged into the Escape a few years back, there was a quirk the designers couldn’t overcome: there’s a slight hump in the framing in front of the screen, and while that does provide a nice place to rest one’s hand while interacting with it, most of Sync 3’s important functions are accessed by virtual buttons at the bottom of the screen, which isn’t as easy to reach as it should be.
Finally, some key safety features, even in this top-of-the-line Titanium, require an extra spend on a package. The Ford Safe/Smart and Roof package adds a panoramic sunroof, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, collision warning, and blind spot information at a price tag of $2,500.
Perhaps, once all is revealed, the 2020 Escape will put forward a better value proposition. But for now, there’s no way around it: paying $43,000 and change for a small SUV with an engine that recommends premium fuel and doesn’t have as rich of a suite of feature content as similar competitors is a lofty ask. These days, in this segment, buyers have too many options, and if they don’t see some stout incentives as these 2019 models clear out, it won’t be hard to tempt them to shop elsewhere.
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